It is always difficult when a parent first learns their child is suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). In the UK, 1 in 10 children will be displaying symptoms of ADHD by the age of 7 years and exhausted parents will have sought help from a health professional after feeling the sense of exasperation that inevitably accompanies raising a child with this challenging syndrome. Early diagnosis is vital, however, because if left untreated, ADHD can lead to a future blighted by accidents, criminal activity and difficulties in maintaining jobs and relationships.
More boys than girls are diagnosed with ADHD and the chaotic behaviours may include impatience, fidgeting, interrupting others, difficulty in carrying out instructions and organising themselves, impulsive actions and no sense of danger. The three core characteristics of ADHD are classified as Hyperactivity, Impulsivity and Inattention, although there are crossovers of symptoms which can be found in children; for example, one child may be loud and in constant motion, whereas another child with ADHD without the hyperactivity may daydream and show a lack of attention or forgetfulness when faced with a task.
These children are usually overwhelmed by noise and stimuli and filtering out these distractions is challenging, but it is always important to remember that their responses are compulsive and they have little or no control over the confusion of images and sensations they are experiencing.
ADHD is a medical condition which affects the brain and makes behaviour difficult to control. Suggestions of causation include low levels of dopamine which can create a chemical imbalance which exacerbates the disorder. Most professionals agree that there is a strong genetic component to this disorder, but many also add premature birth, low birth weight, smoking, alcohol and drug abuse during pregnancy as contributory factors.
There is no cure for ADHD, but management of the symptoms with educational support and advice from mental health professionals alongside medication where necessary, is often sufficient to alleviate or control some of the more challenging aspects. A diagnosis needs to be made through a qualified mental health professional before a treatment plan can be assembled which may include a specific diet and regular exercise to encourage better sleep patterns, alongside clear expectations and a structured routine.
Very little is discussed about the positive aspects to ADHD which can be very rewarding. These children often demonstrate highly creative personalities as their heads explode with a myriad of imaginative ideas, potentially paving the way for a future career as a brilliant artist or writer. Children with ADHD can show exceptional flexibility in their mental thought processes which makes them great problem-solvers and this strength can lead to success if they are motivated to work hard at a subject which interests them.
Once given a task they enjoy, it is difficult to distract them as they utilise every aspect of their ADHD to complete that task to a successful conclusion.
Even with that initial diagnosis of ‘your child has ADHD’ – with careful support and management, we should never forget that every cloud has a silver lining.
Albert Einstein, Sir Richard Branson, Will Smith, Jim Carrey, Michael Phelps and Walt Disney are just a few high profile people who made ADHD work for them to become the very best in their worlds of science, business, sport and entertainment.
Nurtured and supported in an environment which fully understands this disorder, a child with ADHD can be inspired to be the very best version of themselves.
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‘Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn.’